Gorkhatimes

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Road blockade against uranium mining in Meghalaya

Posted by Ramesh Khati on October 21, 2009

Shillong, Oct 20 (IANS) The influential Khasi Students Union (KSU) has decided to intensify its agitation by enforcing a night-long road blockade on national highways from Tuesday night to protest a proposed uranium mining project in the state.
KSU president Samuel B. Jyrwa told reporters: “The three-night road blockade would commence at 8 p.m. Tuesday night and continue till 5 a.m. Wednesday and again at similar times Oct 21, 22 and 23.”

“We will make our agitation stronger until the state government considers our demand and revokes the leasing of 422 hectares of land to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) for 30 years,” Jyrwa added.

The KSU’s two-night road blockade Oct 14 and Oct 15 to protest the proposed uranium mining project last week affected vehicular movement, specially night passenger buses and goods-laden trucks, on the national highways between Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.

Last week’s two-night road blockade turned violent when many vehicles including six government cars were set ablaze by KSU activists.

The KSU and several local parties have been spearheading the movement against the Meghalaya government’s decision to allow the UCIL to carry out pre-project development programmes in 422 hectares of the uranium-rich areas of West Khasi Hills.

A number of NGOs under the banner of Ka Synjuk Seng Bhalang West Khasi Hills (KSSBWKH) Monday issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Congress-led government in Meghalaya to withdraw its decision on the pre-project development programmes of UCIL.

Meghalaya Principal Secretary (Home) Barkos Warjri told reporters: “Superintendents of Police of the four districts – East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi – have been asked to ensure that the traffic flow along the national and other highways is not disturbed due to the night road blockade.”

Directing the police to take stern action against the agitators, Chief Minister D.D. Lapang told reporters: “The uranium reserves are a national property and no one can stop the government from using them.”

“The government has waited for 20 long years to persuade the people to allow uranium mining at Domiasiat in West Khasi Hills district of southern Meghalaya,” he noted.

Meanwhile, amid protests by KSU and other local parties against the government’s proposed uranium mining project, various organisations supporting the authotities’ move held a massive rally here last week.

The rally was organised by the newly formed pro-mining organisation – Associations of Meghalaya for Development and Advancement (AMDA), a conglomerate of NGOs from various districts.

AMDA supports the state government’s move to go ahead with the Rs 2.09 billion first-phase development by UCIL in the mineral-rich west Khasi Hills district.

A senior Meghalaya government official said the union ministry of environment and forests has already allowed UCIL to start mining for the annual production of 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore and process 1,500 tonnes of the mineral ore per day in West Khasi Hills district.

The UCIL has proposed a Rs.1,046 crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Domiasiat in the West Khasi Hills district. Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

“The UCIL would invest Rs 2.09 billion to undertake pre-developmental project activities to build schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure,” the official said.

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